On the eve of Linda Brown’s (Brown VS Board of Education) passing I couldn’t be more primed to write a blog incorporating such words as “humanist education” and “engaging pedagogy”. So many emotions and thoughts brought up thinking about the legacy and lives changed by one little girl. It is ever so timely when on Sunday, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School marched on Washington to express their dissatisfaction with continued legislative action backed by deep NRA pockets. Communities can and will unite to do what is right when faced with adversity in uncertain times. To not take action implies complicity.
Paulo Freire talks about how words become hollow and alienating when detached from reality. Teachers who instill fear and hierarchy because to not do so would allow creativity and transformative learning experiences. The “banking” concept of education is having students mechanically memorize and be gifted by the knowledge of the teacher. Really in this context it is being used to contain, control and oppress the students so that they “fit into” the structured world around them. Anything other than fitting in, such as being creative or humanistic, would be considered revolutionary. The massive dichotomy between the banking education method and problem-posing method is an abyss at worst and a chasm at best. Complete opposites in every manner. As new professors and future professoriates we need to incorporate every aspect of the positive problem-posing method. Paulo Freire used the word “human” 33 times in this one chapter. Of course, I’ll point out again that in my first month I wrote a blog regarding the very topic of human decency missing in the higher education system at VT. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say I might be onto something. I wonder how many of the banking education methods are employed here daily, and probably by people who don’t even realize they are continuing the cycle of a detached reality.
Bell Hooks also used the word “humane” in her first few chapters, to no surprise. My favorite excerpt and also one that applies to VT, “teachers who appeared to derive their primary pleasure in the classroom by exercising their authoritarian power over my fellow students, crushing our spirits, and dehumanizing our minds and bodies…..I never once considered what it would be like to study with teachers who were racist….I had romanticized college”. She very well could have taken this out of my own diaries. I’m reminded of a book by my dear friend “I, Rigoberta Menchu” by Rigoberta Menchu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in which she addresses the fact that one must have enduring courage to fight against the system and do what is right, regardless of the cost. I love how Hooks paints the picture of the critical thinker as a child, when most would think it’d be professor or doctor. She breaks it down so eloquently when stating “in traditional higher education settings, students find themselves yet again in a world where independent thinking is not encouraged”. I literally wrote OMG!!!! in the margin at the beginning of Chapter 2 where she writes that she participated in the Voice of Democracy contest, because, I did as well! I even won 3rd place in my district which came with $500 and helped me buy my first car in high school. LOL!
I’m so thankful to have been asked to read these articles for my blog at a time when I needed them most. The world is smaller than we think and great minds really do think alike.
9 Responses to Paulo Freire & Bell Hooks….educators I can stand by…..and an ode to Linda Brown…..
Good afternoon Lehi,
Just wanted to tell you that you made many great points in your post. Among which, the point about improving the humanistic approach toward interacting with the students was captivating.
There are many actions in the classroom that I could classify them as “dehumanizing actions”, whether done consciously or not. However, the main concern is how the students are getting ” educated” by these actions. I believe the viscous cycle of “deriving primary pleasure in the classroom by exercising authoritarian power” needs to be stopped fully and the only way to go through that process is to actively enhance and spread our awareness.
Good afternoon Ali,
YES! Thank you for the positive feedback and I’m glad you found the post applicable to your own life. So, how exactly do we actively spread our awareness when the inmates are running the asylum and we are held hostage in the system? I believe there must be a balance because obviously we want our Ph.D. but at the same time we have to stand up for ourselves and fight against the system to do what is right. I don’t question that the double sided blade in this scenario is dangerous on both ends as we either lose ourselves to the system and become part of the cycle or we win and exit the system but without a degree. Unfortunately, no one seems to care about the attrition rate here at VT because if they took five minutes to look at it they’d see there is a massive problem across all departments. They chalk it up to “they weren’t Ph.D. material” however the reality might be more along the lines of “they were tired of being mismanaged by professors who were lost to magical thinking and elitism”.
I also thought about the student protests when I read Freire. Oftentimes there’s an assumption that education should not be political or teachers should not share their views. This is hard. Many of the professors I adored were very transparent in their personal politics. I feel like Freire gives us permission to talk about politics in ways that empower our students. How exciting.
Good morning Sarah,
Yes, I know it will be a hard balance for me as well not to be transparent but at the end of the day I’m going by the rule of what you shouldn’t discuss at family dinner: sex, politics, or religion! LOL!
Transparency regarding politics in the current political climate is certainly dangerous territory. I can’t help but feel that some of us liberal folk (lol) are somewhat hypocritical at times regarding this transparency. I often hear jokes about republicans, or conservative politics more generally, around campus, and sometimes in classrooms. Yet, when a graduate instructor on our very own campus is found to have far-leaning conservative thoughts in his personal life (and I will admit- I do not know the extent to which this infiltrated his classrooms), there is a call to have him removed from his teaching duties. This just has me thinking…how much is too much to share? Where is the line? Are college campuses really so liberal that we can’t tolerate other views? Isn’t this what we are trying to avoid altogether, this intolerance of other views? Now don’t get me wrong, I personally cringe at several conservative ideas. But, academically and intellectually I feel as though we should be open to discussions on these ideas and topics, thus they need a platform too. Brings me back to the question: Where is the line for inappropriate conversations in the intellectual sphere?
No clue if this is making any sense….I think I’m just rambling at this point. So, here I’ll stop!
Thank you for sharing! I agree on many of the systemic changes in education that you mention as needed. I cannot help but think that achieving such massive change in education would be facilitated by structural change. While banking education is widespread – professors whom may not be good at or even interested in teaching do so only because of the job requirement. It seems the main coping mechanism of this is a lecture based environment. If we can foster tenure track changes in what is expected – in order to allow those who are truly good at and passionate to educate – perhaps change would become easier to obtain.
Good morning Bailey,
Absolutely! I don’t think anyone would argue that tenure track system needs to change, of course except the tenure track professors who keep the system in place to control and repeat the cycle with new tenure track professors. I like the idea of having some professors only teach and some only research. Also, just because a class is lecture based doesn’t mean you have to take the humanity piece out of it. I genuinely feel that if you aren’t in education to mentor, educate, and help others then you should choose a different field.
I’m probably going to miss the mark on your post by a significant margin, but I thought has occurred to me. Watch out, someone could get hurt. What are the student’s expectations when they enter a college classroom? Are they expecting a stream of Robin Williams “O captain my captain” moments? Do they believe that it is a nonstop party and you can pass with constant supply of all-nighters? Finally, are they seeing this a merely checking a box on a job application? I’m going to be the naysayer and conspiracy theorist and say, what if that is all they are expecting? I show up to class, spit it back at you, then get my degree. Wouldn’t that mimic the high school experience, and they could find comfort in something familiar? Granted, it is our job as educators to grow their minds beyond that. This tangent was brought you by the word humanist.
Good morning Chris,
Never a dull moment inside of that brain of yours! LOL! I love the way you think. You are correct, who is to say what the college student expectation is? However, I think we if listened and gave attention this weekend to the thousands of high school teachers walking out of Oklahoma schools because even after 10 years their pay is less than $40,000, would tell us a lot. That brings me to the fact that students pay for college (or at least their parents). We as a higher education institution are providing a service and unfortunately given the current circumstances of education I’d say almost a disservice. Starting salaries in my department are $100,000. This is a public institution and you can google every professor you have. Think about it, is that guy whose getting paid $235,000 a year REALLY putting in the amount of effort that he should to educate our undergraduate students? I’d say no and I rest my case. Think about it.